Back in the fold, the white sheep stare,
chewing the cud that they always chew,
warm in the wool that they always share,
bleating of goats next door, as they do.
Goats are the winners. Don’t ask for fair
kind of treatment, just bleatment and butting at you.
They’ve very hard horns and devour what’s spare
and sheep have to keep to the back of the queue.
Hang on a mo! This is goatland nightmare!
A ram that butts back with its own point of view?
Rams cannot lead – they’re a danger. Beware!
We’re in it together. Goats have told you.
Keep him at the back, we can laugh at him there.
Hell knows he’ll turn sheep into mincemeat or stew.
Don’t listen to him, he is far too aware.
from where has this crowd of rams come into view?
It was a chilly evening in November
We walked through Greenwich street, my mum and me,
Our toes and fingers frozen, I remember.
The Cutty Sark is what we’d been to see.
It was quite a day as I recall.
We’d stood, one foot in East and one in West
And seen the standard measures on the wall,
And so many telescopes impressed.
We looked out from the hill across the river,
Passed through dwindling crowds as we descended.
The icy wind caught crinkled leaves together,
Now and then to fade, its force expended.
Our coats pulled tightly round our back,
Arms linked in unity, we strode
To chance upon a brazier, glowing black
Beside a scruffy trader of the road.
Pink digits poking from his woolly mitts,
He raked the embers on their bed of slag,
His voice directed to the empty street,
“Hot chestnuts? Six pennyworth a bag!”
Our eyes glowed bright, mouths leaking inward willing.
A stiffnecked, halfglanced smile we gave to us.
“Two bags, please!” she said, extending shilling.
Hot chestnuts, handrolled, gave in with no fuss
And warmed us, waiting homeward for the bus.
Bills are signed, sealed and dated.
Plans are met, dreams frustrated,
Schemes of war contemplated
By men of grey who fail.
Papers pushed, emails sent,
OBEs paid like rent,
Not for good, not for right.
Consequences out of sight,
Out of mind – not polite.
Such sense would make them pale.
Ticking boxes for their bosses,
Some for gains, others losses.
Daily grinds for clerks’ assistants.
Results are kept at a distance.
Many lives with spoiled existence
Hang from this paper trail.
Never mind the fire
Never mind the pain
Catharsis trickles from those lovely eyes
Mingles with your thoughts of summer rain
Feeling the cooling winds
Spinning fiercely round bins of green and brown
Discarding into sheltered nooks
Meteorologists and geologists need a map.
Archaeologists and cosmologists need a map.
Lumpy ones are perfect for phrenologists,
And you need them for gigs if you happen to be a monologist.
Architects and geographers need a map.
Dictators and world dominators need a map.
They’re positively vital if you’re a general,
But if you’re a ghost you need something more ephemeral.
Singaporeans and Ecuadoreans need a map.
Willenhall-eans getting to Aldridge need a map.
A captain needs a map or a chart to embark.
West Midland Safari Park has one with a claw mark.
Climatologists and seismologists need a map.
Philologists and ecologists need a map.
Lorries need ’em for every Daf, Merc and Foden,
And anyone seeking assistance to hide Edward Snowden
Estates Agents in any area need a map.
Cowboy on Texas prairie! Ya needs a map!
If you’re sailing past Somalia in your little yacht,
You won’t need a map, just a few more brains than you’ve got.
For taxis to learn ‘the knowledge’ they need a map,
And people designing satnavs need a map.
I could have been a cartographer, perhaps,
But I’ll stick to my writing and draw the line at maps.
Ripped and burned
Tree in attic,
That Santa brought.
One piece short.
I used to love to get it out and show it off to everyone who came to our house and home.
I used to do the whole caboodle – my adornments hanging freely out for all to view and gasp.
But then it started getting harder; people didn’t want to see it, so much so they wouldn’t come,
Started coming much less often, seen it better and more entertaining they would coldly rasp.
It isn’t funny any more when vegan-friendliness interprets all your ways as naff or sad
Teens and twenties dump your music just to listen to the throbbing of the headache sounds of crackheads
Older relatives won’t travel: much too feeble; much too frail; Virgin Rail? Are you mad?
And those who’ve “made it” – those with “readies” get the total modern, epic courtesy of Harrods
So my baubles not as shiny, so they hang a little lower on my artificial branches,
And my angels tinkle vaguely and there’s house-dust on the fairy, verdigris on my gold rings,
So the tinsel suffers from a case of alopecia, and the sign hung in the window broadcasts Hapn Cri tmas
Still I think my old things score as they have something more to offer – more than mere glitter brings
This old toilet tissue cardboard with the cotton wool around it and the floppy fuzzy-felt hat.
That’s the snowman that our small girl made us when she was at juniors, stuffed with joy.
The reindeer bells that jangle coarsely hanging on the outer door, gladdened as I crossed the mat.
I like to think, if Jesus entered, in his civvies, he would say – “You done good, boy!”
Filling a book of futures with planned desires
Hopes are mounted like empty photographs
Whose pictures we supply,
Each image, when it’s due, removed
And pasted in the book of me on the page of now
Painted with reality,
Time passes and each life moves on with its own pulse
Marking moments as the turn of chapters,
Marking moments as the flicking of pages
That fill the heart with recollections
Of joys and pains and the mind’s reflections.
And hope’s pictures unachieved gently rest as feathers in the book of fallen dreams.
Hush now, child –
remove the smile, for this is not your time.
These silent moments of November
are kept for us to spend on those who died,
those brave ones who were sent by us
to wrench peace from the jaws of war,
to bear the wounds and scars and even die
for you and all of us now standing here.
Observe the pretty poppies as they fall
silent blood-red petals – each a life that’s shed.
Every single one a person, just like you
with friends and family and love to share
and wanting not to wilt before their time was due.
You may not know now of your relative
cut down and buried in a foreign field,
but he is there, and she is there and they are there.
Your history is calling out — “Remember me!”
So spend these precious moments of your every year
in reverence to the ordinary lives
that faced the blades, the bullets and the bombs
for you to have the freedom here to stand.